Puberty, periods & preteen discussions with my daughter
My daughter is having ‘the talk’ at school. She comes home giddy, eagerly anticipating the circus to follow. ‘Everyone is laughing about it’ she says ‘the girls are all making jokes.’We’ve had ‘the talk’ on an ongoing basis at home so there won’t really be anything she doesn’t know but it’s different having this information presented in school with the boys and girls giggling and shuffling in their seats looking at diagrams of vulvas and testicles. And it’s great to have another chance to explore this topic and look at things from a new perspective. Before it was information to explore and discuss, now it’s actually a part of her. She’s 11, soon to be 12 and has definitely entered puberty. Her body is gradually changing, her moods sometimes unpredictable and dramatic.
In anticipation of ‘the talk’ at school, we have a series of chats, random questions that pop up, then some deeper conversations. ‘I don’t want to be an adult’ she sobs one night. ‘Adults work and do boring things; they don’t play all the time. I want to be a child forever.’
As she talks, I remember that feeling. I vividly recall a phase of rereading my old Famous Five books, when I was well beyond them, a deliberate attempt to hold time still and avoid foraging into teenage tales of romance and maturity. ‘If I just lie here reading the same old adventures I won’t have to go there’ I must have thought, snuggling under the duvet, safe in my comfort zone.
We all make the journey in our own way, in our own time. I just want to let her know I’m here and listen to her talk. It can seem like the magic of childhood is over, and in one way it is. A girl’s first bleeding indicates her rite of passage into maturity, traditionally a preparation for marriage and child bearing.
But it’s also a time of self discovery, of a new connection with herself and with other women, of understanding herself as a vessel filled with spirit and connected to nature in such a powerful way that her body literally ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the moon and the tides. Is there a greater magic than that? And every month this blood that really must be regarded as holy, not to be too cheesy but how else can you describe something so pure that literally gives life to another being?
She is a vessel then, for life, for creation, whether it’s new projects, a new idea, a piece of art or in time, an actual child. Isn’t it amazing to tune into that? To discover within oneself the endless capacity for change and rebirth, for new growth and letting go. This is the cycle we’re attuned to as women, dark moon, new moon, quarter moon, full moon. Crops are sown by it; tides align to it. Making us unquestionably a part of this natural world.
I forget it all the time, doing the school run, driving the familiar route to work. Now here she is, standing at the edge of this new ocean. I want to show her the beauty of it all. What it is to be feminine, female in this world.
She’s questioning the roles and social expectations; ‘Why do girls wear make up?’ ‘Why is it a girl thing to do your nails?’ ‘I don’t want to kiss anyone.’ ‘Why should girls wear high heels, they feel ridiculous.’ She wants to ride horses, read books and play in the garden. Why would anyone want to do anything else? Growing up is such a pain.
‘It’s like a window’ I say, one night, scrambling for metaphors in my sleepy head, ‘you’ve just opened the window to have a look but you don’t have to open it any more until you’re ready.’ ‘I’m closing it again’ she announces determinedly, arms crossed, sitting up in the bed. And so she did, until curiosity got the better of her.
A few days later we arrange to go for girl time breakfast together. ‘Will I have to open the window again?’ she enquires, realising that she’s broached the topic again. ‘Only if you want to, open it however much you want.’
We take our time, discussing the physical side of periods. What will it be like? How long does it last? How does it feel? How will I know the first time? And so on. We discuss sanitary products, the great new companies doing absorbent underwear, (looking great and being environmentally friendly, so important to her). We pick out which ones to order, discuss what else she might need.
It’s another step along the stepping-stones. The next time she brings it up, some of the fear is gone, rather than nervous she seems slightly excited. ‘When it happens’ she says ‘I want to go to lunch with you, my auntie and granny.’
‘Then that’s exactly what we’ll do.’ Meanwhile, I’m creating a gift box with books (ideas below), the underwear and other little things, (a new diary, hair accessories etc.) for when the time comes.
It’s a great adventure, listening and talking, making the journey together. All I want is to keep the door open, keep the conversation going and the connection strong.
Reaching for the Moon – Lucy H. Pearce
For A girl Becoming – Joy Harjo
Beautiful Girl – Christiane Northrup
The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
Sex is a Funny Word – Cory Silverberg
There are a number of websites doing girls period underwear. After researching them online, one of the best seems to be Modi Bodi if you are based in Ireland/UK, They also have an Australian branch. Plenty more options are available from the U.S.